(NEW YORK) — Leave it to Kanye West to provide the highlight of the night at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, held Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
He commanded the mic for what sounded like a stream-of-consciousness speech that touched upon numerous subjects, ranging from his “Famous” video to Taylor Swift to his perceived all-around greatness.
After walking onto the stage to chants of “Yeezy,” the rapper declared, “I am Kanye West, and that feels really great to say, especially this year.”
In a nod to the infamous VMAs moment when he interrupted Taylor, Kanye joked, “Now later tonight ‘Famous’ might lose to Beyoncé but I can’t be mad, I’m always wishing for Beyoncé to win.”
He then let loose with his thoughts, name-checking his former girlfriend, Amber Rose, who was in attendance, and one of his wife Kim Kardashian West’s exes while addressing his “Famous” video, which featured naked lookalikes of celebrities in bed.
“It was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV, you know, the audacity to put Anna Wintour right next to Donald Trump. I put Ray J in it, bro,” he said, as Kardashian West laughed in the crowd.
“If you think about last week it was 22 people murdered in Chicago,” the rapper said. “You know, people come up to me like, ‘Man, that’s right! Take, tell Taylor this. Bro, like I love all y’all. That’s why I called her,” alluding to the infamous phone call between the two that Kardashian West released.
Moments later, Kanye mentioned that his role models are “artists” and “merchants,” then proceeded to name them: “Truman, Ford, Hughes, Disney, Jobs, West.”
All of this was a prelude to Kanye unveiling his new music video for “Fade,” starring Teyana Taylor, who dances around exercise equipment before developing cat-like features while joined by fiancé Iman Shumpert.
Beyoncé was the shining star of the VMAs, though. She was the top winner, taking eight awards, including Video of the Year for “Formation.”
In accepting Video of the Year, she made sure to thank her “beautiful daughter” and “incredible husband,” Blue Ivy and Jay Z, for their support, before dedicating the prize to the people of New Orleans.
Earlier in the night, Bey ruled the stage for 15 minutes for a dramatic and sexy medley of songs from Lemonade, including “Hold Up,” which won the award for Best Female Video.
That honor was presented to her by the Final Five women’s gymnastics team — minus Gabby Douglas, who was hospitalized with a mouth infection.
Per Billboard, Beyoncé now holds the record for most career Moonmen wins with 24, surpassing Madonna’s 20.
Britney Spears, who’s had her share of famous VMAs moments herself, took a break from her Las Vegas show to grace the MSG stage in a mostly yellow sparkling outfit. She performed her new tune “Make Me…” with G-Eazy.
The broadcast began with a performance by Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award recipient Rihanna. Pretty in pink, she ran through several of her hits, like “Only Girl (In The World),” “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been.”
The performance continued throughout the night, with Ri-Ri periodically returning to the stage to sing “What’s My Name?,” “Work,” “Pour It Up,” “B**** Better Have My Money,” “Stay,” “Diamonds” and “Love on the Brain.”
Rihanna’s night was capped by her rumored love interest Drake — who’d already congratulated her with a Los Angeles billboard — presenting her the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
“She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old. She is one of my best friends in the world,” he shared, before giving her the award — and what looked like a kiss on the cheek.
Future’s performance was introduced by Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps, who revealed that he was listening to the rapper’s “Stick Talk” when he made the angry #Phelpsface that went viral during the Rio Games.
Future then delivered a live version of “F*** Up Some Commas.”
Phelps seemed to get a big kick out of presenter Jimmy Fallon being dressed as Phelps’ disgraced teammate Ryan Lochte later in the broadcast, taking photos with his smartphone of the late-night host. Fallon, making light of Lochte’s “over-exaggerated” robbery tale in Rio, told all sorts of lies, joking, for example, that he taught Drake the “Hotline Bling.”
Ariana Grande was joined by Nicki Minaj for a workout-themed rendition of “Side to Side,” with Ariana demonstrating she can sing and pedal an exercise bike at the same time.
Nick Jonas sang “Bacon” inside a diner where various guests like Joe Jonas and Joe’s band, Best New Artist winner DNCE, were sitting at tables. He eventually brought the performance to the street with the help of collaborator Ty Dolla $ign.
The Chainsmokers and Halsey came together for a live version of their hit “Closer.”
Alicia Keys was a presenter, but she performed in her own way while honoring the 53-year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech by reciting a poem.
“If war is holy and sex is obscene, then we got it twisted in this lucid dream,” she said.
Following the poem, she sang a cappella.
The VMAs did not have a host this year. Instead, various entertainers were enlisted to cover the show.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele offered play-by-play commentary as the characters @TheShamester and @LizardSheeple. DJ Khaled, recent Saturday Night Live star Jay Pharoah and comedienne Nicole Byer also took part in the coverage.
Prior to the VMAs ceremony, MTV aired an hour-long preshow with performances by Lukas Graham, Alessia Cara, Troye Sivan and Jidenna.
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